Rahul Gandhi’s patronising and self-serving distortions in parliament

Elections 2024
08 July, 2024

Our cover story this month deals with how, in Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party—with the Congress playing, at best, a minor role—took on and defeated the Bharatiya Janata Party. The most important lesson from the election result was that the BJP cannot take its support base for granted. While the party held on to its upper-caste Hindu vote, it lost a great deal of traction, primarily among voters from castes administratively referred to as Extremely Backward Classes.

Did these voters move away from the BJP because they sought solace in Shiva? Did they move away from the BJP because they felt protected by the fearlessness of the hand held aloft in Abhay Mudra, also the Congress symbol? The answer to both questions is an emphatic no. They voted for greater representation in India’s exclusionary power structure, a representation whose possibility the BJP tantalisingly held out and then failed to deliver on.

Beyond the UP victory, let us look back over the ten years in power of Narendra Modi and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Who stood up in public to be counted? We saw the Dalits at Bhima Koregaon question the very basis of Peshwa Brahminism that the RSS thrives on; we saw the Muslims of Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, in particular, gather together to protest the discriminatory citizenship criteria of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act; and we saw the farmers of Punjab and Haryana, a great number of them Sikhs, stand up to, and defeat, the injustice of Modi’s agrarian reforms. Rahul Gandhi and his “good Hindus” were mostly missing in all this. Even when violence shook north-east Delhi in 2020, Rahul and the Congress failed to go among the Muslims, who were targeted in state-backed attacks. When Rahul’s hand-picked man Kanhaiya Kumar campaigned in this constituency during the general election, he did not even mention, leave alone condemn, what had happened.

There is little reason to repeat what a number of stories in this magazine have already argued: the Congress is afraid to call out the violence against Muslims and Dalits for what it is: a clear attack against the identity of these communities, a hatred directed at who they are by birth or belief. Instead, Rahul prefers to couch it as a manifestation of economic distress—unemployed Hindu youth misled into violence by their circumstances. It is a formulation that evades not just the truth of the Sangh’s vision of Hinduism, but the truth about how Hinduism is often practised in many parts of the country.